We recently decided to celebrate our anniversary with the kids in Napa Valley. As in, Napa Valley Wine Country.

I already knew that Napa is a scenic destination, with miles of vineyards. But, as we hadn’t visited before, we wanted to make sure the girls would also have a great time. I wasn’t quite sure how to keep them occupied among all the supposed wine-sloshing adults and hundreds of wineries and tasting rooms.

As it turns out, Napa has some pretty fun stuff to do for families that are not exclusively wine-related. We went to some places where you can be under 21 and still have some fun!

CASTELLO DI AMOROSA

This stunning replica of a 13th century Tuscan castle will make your jaw drop. The castle was built using medieval building methods from that time period, and from antique bricks flown in from Europe. There is a courtyard, a tower to climb, torture chamber, a drawbridge, a moat, and of course, tasting rooms. Even if you don’t want to wine taste, there is plenty to explore in this amazing landmark.

The tasting rooms house hundreds of bottles of red and white, and off to one side, there is even a family tasting room. Parents get to sample five wines while the kiddos get their own glass of white grape juice, produced on site. There are even tables and chairs with coloring sheets and crayons to keep those little hands busy!

>> RELATED: TRAVEL GUIDE: CASTELLO DI AMOROSA CASTLE WINERY

NIGHT BLOOM: HOT AIR BALLOON EXPERIENCE

In the evening, we headed to downtown Napa to take in the local sights and sounds. As we just came from a heavy late lunch, we figured this would be a good way to walk off our meal.

As we neared the downtown area, we were lucky enough to stumble upon Night Bloom.

Three fully inflated hot air balloons were set up in a row while crowds of people were gathered around. The balloon operators, seated in each balloon, pulled the cord to light the flame, much to the crowd’s delight. As this was all happening at night, it was a beautiful spectacle–to go from a dark silhouette of a hot air balloon to one that was fully lit from inside.

CIA AT COPIA

As we headed away from the hot air balloons, we approached the CIA at Copia. This is a large building with an outdoor amphitheater. There was another crowd here, all of them admiring a beautiful moon exhibit by artist Luke Jerram.

It is a spherical, small-scale exact replica of the lunar surface, fully lit from inside, and complete with dreamy celestial sound effects. This exhibit is currently traveling the globe, and we were lucky enough to see it while in Napa.

Inside the CIA at Copia Center is housed the Chuck Williams Culinary Arts Museum. This large room is filled wall to wall and floor to ceiling with kitchenware from throughout the ages.

Copper cake pans of all shapes and sizes adorn an entire wall. Antique whisks and vintage canisters for every kind of kitchen staple are showcased. It’s pretty cool to see how far we’ve come technologically speaking–even in the kitchen!

DOWNTOWN NAPA

Napa Valley has a cute downtown with several streets full of shops, restaurants, and flowers blooming all over. The architecture of the buildings there is old-fashioned, and as it was a Sunday, the streets weren’t too crowded. Pretty much from any point, you are just minutes away from Napa’s Riverfront and views of the water.

OXBOW PUBLIC MARKET

How should I say this? Oxbow Public Market is a true foodie’s paradise.

Not unlike Ferry Plaza Farmers’ Market in San Francisco, albeit smaller, there are all manner of artisanal shops and restaurants featuring fresh seasonal ingredients and dishes for every palate. The restaurants are more like service counters, and there is common seating, much like a food court.

It is pretty packed though. It may be a bit much to eat a meal with kids here, but it’s fun to take a couple of laps around to check out the adorable displays. And if the kids are good, you can even reward them with cupcakes (which we did!).

So there you have it—-5 (almost!) totally wine-free ways to enjoy Napa Valley as a family and keep the kids entertained!


Have you ever taken your kids to Napa Valley? What are some family-friendly places to visit?


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